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Jimmy Helton

Greasing it on with the 800

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Before I get into what I want to talk about, here is a little background on me.  My last four years of flying and learning systems aircraft that are as close to real as possible has been with Digital Combat Simulator and their A-10C they developed for the Air National Guard. From there I went on to the Ka-50 and eventually the Mig-21, but the A-10C was always my first and favorite.  I remember reading the manual for 3 months before I even took to the air.  Sure, I flew in FSX before that, but I never invested in payware.  Last year, I decided to take the plunge and fully immerse myself in flying as real as you can get airliners on Vatsim.  There was really only one choice: the PMDG NGX.  That being said, I have a lot to learn about airliners, which brings me to the topic of this post: greasing on my landings.

 

When do most of you start your flare in the 800?  I've been trying to figure out the exact point during altitude callouts to grease it on without slapping it down too hard or heaven for bid bouncing the nose gear.  I don't always get it right.  I'd say I get it wrong more then I get it right.  It may really be more about the feel, but most of you probably start your flare at a specific altitude above the runway.  Assuming a flaps 40 approach speed going down the ILS with the autopilot doing the throttling, is there a consistent time to flare? Any advice on how to get the feel of flaring an airliner like the NGX?

 

To compare apples to oranges, when I'm flying the A-10C in Digital Combat Simulator, it forces you to grease on and damages the gear if you land too hard or too fast (anywhere from busted tires, gear won't retract, to collapsed gear).  When I land the Warthog, I'm very much focused on speed.  I know my V speeds, and those numbers don't really change between flights as much as they do on an airliner.  My objective is to cross the threshold (Vat) about 10 knots above the touchdown speed and lose that speed on flare to touch down right above stall speed (Vso) (very similar to a Cessna I might add).  Hit the runway too fast and you pay for it (or rather, Uncle Sam does).   Of course, I'm manually controlling pitch and throttle and making constant adjustments on approach to keep the proper angle of attack and speed. I can't stress enough how you have to be about 7-10 seconds ahead of the jet on your throttle and stick inputs.  The Warthog has a very rudimentary autopilot even less capable then what you'd find on a DC-3, and so almost all of the flying is done by hand.

 

On the NGX, I feel like it's so automated that I have no "feel" for the airplane, if that makes any sense.  The autopilot takes me down the ILS until decision height.  The autothrottle idles the throttle somewhere between 30-50 AGL, and its up to me to time my flare and place her on the centerline.   I once heard an airline pilot say that you don't land an airliner, you fly her on to the runway.  Still the same principles should more or less apply to any airplane....with the autothrottle idling the engines there should be a "right time" to flare to touch down at just the right speed.  Maybe I should manually fly my approaches, and dispense with the autopilot altogether until I can really "feel" the NGX. I'm definitely going from a sports car (if you can call a Warhog that) to a bus.

 

Any thoughts?

 

Jimmy Helton

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Why don't you try flying the airplane, just like you do the A10? You'll never get the feel of any airplane, in real life or in a simulator, if you constantly use the max level of automation. Automation is a tool to manage workload, and different levels of workload are best met with different levels of automation... But on a nice day, just turn it all off and fly. It's just an airplane. (I mean all that totally sincerely by the way, not trying to be snarky, which it kind of sounded like when I read it. Sorry. I really think a lot of handflying is the best way to sort this out.)

 

I guess I can't really answer your specific question because I'm not looking at the radio altitude when I start my flare, and our planes have the altitude callouts turned off. I'd guess around 30 feet, nice and smooth. But it's not really that easy, it's about the relationship between speed management, thrust management, energy state management, and descent rate. Different landings will require different things to roll it on. One day you may need to slap the power to idle just starting the flare because of an increasing energy state, the next day you may need to actually add power starting the flare, and keep it in until touchdown, because of a gust causing a decreasing energy state.

 

I really don't know how accurately any of that's modeled in the sim. I don't put any real effort into the simulated landings, it's other aspects I enjoy about the sim. But I'd have to think the same advice I'd give someone in a real airplane will hold true here - you won't get the feel for it unless you spend some time flying it, which means you gotta turn all the magic off.

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Some like automation some don't, as the previous post stated, you can just turn it all off ;-) anyway, may be you should look at the Milviz 737-200 for more manual feel, or the MJC Q400 which is definitely require your full attention as there is no auto throttle.

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Assuming a flaps 40 approach speed going down the ILS with the autopilot doing the throttling, is there a consistent time to flare? Any advice on how to get the feel of flaring an airliner like the NGX?

 

The FCTM contains plenty. Do not attempt to grease it on. Just put the plane on the ground.

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I guess there is a reason that SWA does not use autothrottle or VNAV.  They want their pilots to be continually engaged with the airplane.  I'm going to turn off all the magic and actually fly the plane for a while.

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I guess there is a reason that SWA does not use autothrottle or VNAV.  They want their pilots to be continually engaged with the airplane.  I'm going to turn off all the magic and actually fly the plane for a while.

 

They didn't. Past tense. They do now.

 

...all the same, yes, it's considered a good idea to hand fly things to get a feel for the aircraft.

 

 

 

Also: I'm guessing your user name is your real name, but full names are required in the body of the post for the sake of consistency and ease for the mods.

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Some like automation some don't, as the previous post stated, you can just turn it all off ;-) anyway, may be you should look at the Milviz 737-200 for more manual feel, or the MJC Q400 which is definitely require your full attention as there is no auto throttle.

I wouldn't recommend the MilViz 737 for that, in fact I wouldn't recommend it for anything, but that's just my opinion. Far better just to disconnect the automatics in the NGX and fly the approach manually. Disconnecting at decision height is far too late to get the feel of it. Whether its handling is accurate or not isn't the point. It's the sim the OP is going to fly in practice so it's best to get used to how it handles.

 

I personally do it by feel, not by numbers. I find the NGX is fairly forgiving of any errors I make. In contrast, DCS sounds incredibly unforgiving. It would be interesting to know how narrow the landing parameters are in the real A-10.

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First, so that we know what the objective is:

 

What constitutes a good landing?

One that accomplished at the right speed and in the right place -- on the centreline and in the touchdown zone, from a stable approach. Anything else is, essentially, a bonus.

 

Obviously it's nice to get a "greaser", but the above parameters are more important: runway excursion is a major RW safety issue at the moment and deep landings/unstable approaches are major contributory factors to overrun incidents. Most operators these days I think have FDM parameters that will get you a "tea, no biscuits" chat with the Chief Pilot if you fail to land inside the touchdown zone, or if you exceed pitch or speed parameters on landing. Most common reason for missing the touchdown zone -- floating whilst looking for a greaser...

 

That said -- I'll copy the post I wrote last week on a similar topic:

 

As a general comment on landing technique, as we're talking about it: I don't know about anybody else, but I know that I'm not good enough to decide, within what in reality is going to be a few tenths of a g, how firmly I'm going to put the aeroplane down based on whether it's dry, raining or whatever. The aeroplane lands exactly the same whether the runway is wet or dry, long or short -- if you're consciously trying to modify your technique because "a wet runway requires a firm touchdown" or whatever -- you'll end up all over the place because you'll never be repeating the same technique twice. Just do what the FCOM says (easier said than done, I grant!) -- check back on the control column, close the thrust levers, raise the nose a degree or two (how much is two degrees? Just barely enough to be able to detect a change in pitch attitude out of the window, no more) and wait for the aeroplane to touch down. Of course, all of the previous relies on you consistently arriving over the threshold at the correct height, speed, on centreline and on the correct, stable approach path. Which is why I always say to anybody who asks about improving their landings -- by the time you get the the flare it is too late. You need to look further back at the approach as a whole and particularly concentrate on making sure you consistently cross the threshold at 50ft (you should be getting the "fifty" auto-call just a fraction after the numbers have slid out of view under the nose, assuming your eyepoint is correct) at the right speed, with the engines spooled and at the correct pitch attitude and rate of descent (i.e. circa 700fpm for a typical 3 degree glidepath). If you can do that, then you are well-placed to execute the flare correctly. If you are not in the right place at 50ft, you are always going to struggle. But fundamentally, you should be aiming to do the same thing every time.

 

What you don't want to do in a situation where you are landing on sub-optimal (short/wet/contaminated etc) runway is over-flare and end up floating down the runway at circa 72 metres per second. Therefore if you're going to err -- and we all err, because landing the aeroplane is a dynamic manoeuvre with lots of variables -- you generally want to err on the side of under-flaring slightly/accepting a firmer landing in order make sure the aeroplane is on the ground in the right place. On the other hand, if you float a little on a long, dry runway, the consequences are generally less dramatic and therefore there is more margin for error in the flare itself. However, fundamentally the technique is the same -- check back, close the thrust levers, raise the nose a degree or two.

 

Key points:

  • All good landings start from a stable approach
  • It is more important to land at the correct speed, on centreline and in the touchdown zone than it is to "grease" it on

 

 


The autopilot takes me down the ILS until decision height.

 

As you and others have mentioned already -- there's no need to leave the automatics in that late (and, in fact, I personally prefer to get rid of them earlier rather than later where possible so that I've got a bit more time to get a better feel for the approach, especially in bumpy conditions). Arguably, landing manually after disconnecting at DH just a few seconds before touchdown is one of the trickiest things you can do -- you have very little time to get your head round the aeroplane before the ground comes rushing up to meet you (one of the reasons why I would always recommend autolanding off a CAT II approach unless precluded by an equipment failure -- disconnecting at 100R and trying to hand-fly the last few feet is more likely to destabilise the approach than anything else).

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I just wait for the "Retard, Retard" and pull the throttles back a pitch up ever so slightly. 

 

(I'm kidding in case anyone wants to correct me)  :smile:

 

Oh, and I usually disconnect the AP and AT at the 2500 call and hand fly the rest of the approach....much more fun and engaging that way (and keeps your skills up) and like Simon mentions, I find it really hard to catch up to the plane if I disconnect later in the approach.

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(I'm kidding in case anyone wants to correct me) 

 

GOSH - HOW COULD YOU EVER CONFUSE AN AIRBUS WITH A BOEING  :mad:

 

:P

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The HUD offers flare guidance too. Personally without the HUD I have difficulty monitoring the speed and flying the plane - cause when I'm flying the plane I'm looking out the window, not down at the speed tape. The HUD is giving me a visual of everything I need while keeping my eyes out the window. The HUD is also extremely helpful in telling you where the plane is headed as opposed to where it is pointed, very helpful to stay on that 3 deg glide slope and accommodate for a crosswind.

 

I'd imagine in the seat of the real thing there are enough external cues and sensations to help get the feel of where you are in space and where you are headed, probably very helpful to make a perfect landing.. and a good argument for why in the sim I very rarely making a perfect landing. 

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GOSH - HOW COULD YOU EVER CONFUSE AN AIRBUS WITH A BOEING  :mad:

 

:P

Hehe...I'd have to be in a bad way Kyle to ever mix the two up....I just like to joke about the "Retard, Retard" call whenever I get the chance as we know that in American english, that word is somewhat derogatory. :smile:  

 

I enjoy flying both types (once I learned how to fly the 'Bus) just for variety, but Boeings will always be my preferred airliner.  Not so much for any cultural/geographical influences, but because its what I learned on, and the Bus came to me long after I was comfortable with Boeing.  Having to learn to fly it was challenging, although if I think the Bus is easier to learn if your starting with no preconceived notions of how an airliner should be flown.

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although if I think the Bus is easier to learn if your starting with no preconceived notions of how an airliner should be flown.

 

I would say the biggest obstacle to learning the 'Bus is the preconceived idea that they are flown differently.

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My biggest obstacle to flying a 'Bus is my irrational bias against wanting to be called a bus driver. Do you drive them or do you pilot them??

 

Back on topic... agree that greased landings are a myth among non-aviators.  There's nothing better than a good solid set-down on a windy day.. last thing in the world I want is a drift sideways trying to do a pretty landing. Dispense with the prettiness, plant it where is belongs and move on. The best landings I've ever seen were on a PBS series titled "Carrier," where on one segment there was about 20 min of nothing but night pitching-deck carrier landings.... fifteen bolts in a row. The first guy that stuck it was cheered by the entire crew. That was a beautiful landing.

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In the real airplane I flare at the 20' callout.  Flare just enough to reduce the sink rate, it doesn't take much.  You only want to reduce the sink rate, not stop it completely or worse start climbing.  At the 10' call the throttles go to idle if they aren't already there.

 

That's the basic framework.  Each landing is a little different.  If the sink rate going into the flare is higher for whatever reason I'll start the flare just before the 20' callout.


My biggest obstacle to flying a 'Bus is my irrational bias against wanting to be called a bus driver. Do you drive them or do you pilot them??

 

Back on topic... agree that greased landings are a myth among non-aviators.  There's nothing better than a good solid set-down on a windy day.. last thing in the world I want is a drift sideways trying to do a pretty landing. Dispense with the prettiness, plant it where is belongs and move on. The best landings I've ever seen were on a PBS series titled "Carrier," where on one segment there was about 20 min of nothing but night pitching-deck carrier landings.... fifteen bolts in a row. The first guy that stuck it was cheered by the entire crew. That was a beautiful landing.

 

When I was a check airman the main criteria for grading landings was:

 

Was it in the touchdown zone?

Was it on the center line?

Was it on speed?

Was the sink rate less than that required to break the airplane?

 

Satisfy those four and it's an acceptable landing.  Anything beyond that is a perk. To this day it still bugs me to no end when you fly a beautiful approach and landing on a bumpy day with a strong crosswind and you get the snide "nice landing" comments from the passengers who don't know better.

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Wood eye! Wood eye! :smile:

I actually get that Chuck. :)

 

 

 

The best landings I've ever seen were on a PBS series titled "Carrier," where on one segment there was about 20 min of nothing but night pitching-deck carrier landings.... fifteen bolts in a row.

Yeah Dan...there is absolutely no flaring in carrier aviation.    And its actually called a "bolter".  Just wanted to point that out before some Hot Shot Naval Aviator responded with bias and full inter-service rivalry in an attempt to demean your Branch.    :smile:

 

 

Satisfy those four and it's an acceptable landing.  Anything beyond that is a perk. To this day it still bugs me to no end when you fly a beautiful approach and landing on a bumpy day with a strong crosswind and you get the snide "nice landing" comments from the passengers who don't know better.

 

Hey Joe, most passengers don't get it.  The last time I gave a genuine "Nice landing Cap'n" was when I was near the back row, and because of the crab angle, was able to just see the runway out my window!  He kicked it out at the last second with a very firm plant and we squiggled (technical term) sideways as the wind wind was still trying to blow us off the runway.

I asked him if he was at the very limit of the crosswind component...he smiled and said "That's what I'm puttin' in my logbook" :smile:

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Transport category airplanes by FAR Part 25 are certified as follows -

 

1. A sink rate of 10 feet per second at the maximum design landing weight

2. A sink rate of 6 feet per second at the maximum design takeoff weight

 

A sink rate of 2 to 3 feet per second is most acceptable.

 

Don't forget about ground effect and it's effect on a landing.

 

blaustern

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